And then there were none. Drew Brees has now defeated every team in the NFL during his brilliant career. Only Brett Favre and Peyton Manning had accomplished that feat before him. Brees, who completed 73% of his passes for 212 yards without an interception yet again, also threw for his 500th career touchdown pass, hitting Benjamin Watson during the second quarter. Manning, Favre, and Tom Brady are the only others to have reached that lofty feat. The Saints faced an even bigger challenge on the field though, in the AFC North leading Baltimore Ravens. In a game that resembled a heavyweight fight, both teams exchanged body shots, and every down was a fierce brawl for yardage. Although the game was not pretty statistically, like most Raven games, it was not lacking in impressive performances. Wideout Michael Thomas fought through tough Baltimore coverage to catch 7 passes and a score. Alvin Kamara was again stymied as a receiver, but led all rushers with 64 hard fought yards and a touchdown. The Saints defensive line was again strong against the run, and provided some key pressures on Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco. New Orleans linebackers Demario Davis and A.J. Klein were again standouts, and Davis looks like a potential Pro Bowler. The Saints secondary, despite a few breakdowns, also had some key passes defensed against the dangerous Baltimore receivers. Here are some of the biggest standouts from this thrilling interconference win.
The Saints entered the game without their starting left guard Andrus Peat, out with a concussion. They would also be without top reserve Jermon Bushrod, who remained home with his family after the tragic loss of their baby daughter. (Our prayers and thoughts go out to the Bushrod family). Peat's replacement, Josh Leribeus, would go down in the 3rd quarter with a leg injury. Brees was sacked just one time, and was kept mostly clean from a fierce Baltimore pass rush. Rush yards were an intense battle, but the Saints would forge out 134 yards on the ground on 39 carries. The size and athleticism of the Ravens front line were arguably the biggest challenge to date for the New Orleans protectors. The way in which they handled the challenge bodes extremely well for the powerful defensive fronts that the team will face in the upcoming weeks.
WIL LUTZ and THOMAS MORSTEAD
This was a battle between four of the best punters and placekickers in the league. Ravens punter Sam Koch placed two of his three punts inside the 20-yd. line yesterday, including a brilliantly placed kick downed at the New Orleans 1-yd line. Morstead would counter by booming a 52-yd. punt during the game, and averaging 44 yards per punt. Lutz, the NFL Special Teams Player of the Month in September, nailed a 39-yd. 4th quarter field goal in swirling winds that would wind up providing the Saints margin of victory. Lutz was actually recommended to the New Orleans coaches by Ravens coach John Harbaugh, after impressing them while on their 2016 training camp roster. Baltimore instead chose to keep Justin Tucker, who has made 90% of his field goal attempts and had never missed an extra point in his seven year career. With 24 seconds to play against New Orleans, after his team had just completed an impressive 81-yd. drive to seemingly send the game into overtime, Tucker shanked the extra point attempt however, giving the Saints a thrilling comeback win. It was the second time this season that an opponent's kicking miscues helped New Orleans to victory. Two field goal misses would assist them in a week two over Cleveland. Morstead continues to be one of the most reliable punters in the league, and Lutz has blossomed into one of the most accurate kickers in the league. Both are valuable weapons in any close game, and assets that every Saint fan should feel fortunate to have on the team.
Payton implemented a physical and aggressive game plan to match the physicality of their opponent in this game. The Saints would go on fourth down 4 times on their opening drive, including a fake punt conversion and another successful attempt in their own territory. New Orleans remained aggressive throughout the contest, and coach Payton, like Brees, was able to notch his first victory against the Ravens. Payton's team remained tough in a hostile environment, and they won a contest more suited to Baltimore's preferred style of game. The Saints overcame adversity like a championship team. They bounced back from a failed 4th down near the Ravens goal line, along with breakdowns in their pass defense that led to a momentum stealing Baltimore touchdown to end the first half. Baltimore had not allowed a point during the second half of the season, but the Saints scored 17 fourth quarter points to erase a ten point deficit. Sean Payton's New Orleans Saints were already known to be a team of skill and firepower. This game also revealed them to be a team of toughness and resilience, a combination found in every champion.
Who had the best performance in the Saints thriller over Baltimore?
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Wil Lutz and Thomas Morstead